Abundant sunshine, a fertile plain and imposing mountains: the terroir and climate of Valais provide the Williams pear with ideal conditions for developing its legendary aroma. Succumb to the inimitable flavour and charm of this exceptional fruit: whether savoury, sweet or even frozen, there are endless ways in which to enjoy Williams pears grown in Valais.
Facts and figures72% of Swiss production
of Williams pears is harvested in Valais
Facts and figures132 hectares
of land in Valais are dedicated to the cultivation of Williams pears by integrated production or organic methods
Walliser Williamsbirne im Porträt4 years
It takes 4 years for a pear tree to start producing fruit
Facts and figuresPear trees blossom in April
Pear trees blossom in April; the flowers are pinkish-white
Facts and figures25% distilled
25% of production of Williams pears is distilled
Facts and figures3.5 kg each year
Swiss people consume on average 3.5 kg of pears per person each year
Facts and figures3,000 tonnes
About 3,000 tonnes of Williams pears are produced each year in Valais
Facts and figuresHealth benefits
Low in calories (56 calories per 100 g), High in anti-oxidants, Vitamins (C, B, A and E) and Mineral salts (potassium, zinc, copper)
Season: mid-July to March
Storage: pears are delicate fruit which must not be bruised during transportation. They will keep for several days at room temperature and for a few weeks in a cool, dark storage room. In a fridge, the fruit can keep for two months.
Cultivation: pears are cultivated in four distinct regions, each with its own characteristics: Sierre–Sion, Sion–Riddes, Riddes–Martigny and Martigny–Vernayaz. A tree needs four years of careful cultivation before it produces its first fruit. Maximum harvest is achieved only after six to eight years. The pears are harvested green from 20 August over a period of about three weeks. The fruit turns yellow after two weeks.
Appearance, taste/flavour: tender, juicy, fragrant, sweet, with a touch of acidity. The flesh is white and soft. The skin is initially green but turns yellow when ripe. The pear is sometimes described as “buttery” because of its soft texture.
There are two different versions of the origins of the “Williams bon chrétien” pear.
According to the first, the description of “bon chrétien” – French for “good Christian” – refers to St Francis of Paola, a holy man whom King Louis XI of France summoned to his deathbed as a healer. Francis gave the king a pear seed from his native Calabria; the pear tree that grew from it was dubbed “Bon Chrétien”. The variety subsequently also acquired the name of a gardener called Williams in the late-18th Century.
In the second version, the Williams pear is said to be the fruit of the labour of a certain Mr. Stair Wheeler, who acquired it in about 1796. It was only later, in around 1816, that a nurseryman called Williams started distributing the variety more widely.
In Valais, the earliest recorded reference to pear cultivation dates from 1415. As for Williams pears, the first written record appeared only in 1904.
In 1940, a Valais winegrower called Francis Germanier planted a few hectares of Williams pears on his land. In 1945, a severe storm brought down all the fruit, which was almost ripe, rendering it unfit for sale. To minimise his losses, he had the finest and ripest fruit distilled – and Williams pear brandy was born. Thanks to the Morand distillery, founded in Martigny in 1889, Valais pear brandy subsequently gained international renown under the name “Williamine”.
How to enjoy
Raw or cooked. Keep at room temperature for one or two days before eating, to ensure that the flavour and aromas are perfectly developed. When exposed to the air, the flesh oxidises quickly, but the addition of lemon juice will preserve the pale colour in salads. Williams pears withstand cooking very well, so they are suitable for a variety of dishes. Williams pears can be enjoyed in the form of desserts, tarts, sorbets and fruit brandies. They also offer a fine accompaniment for a brisolée (Valais dish of roast chestnuts served with cured meat, cheese and autumn fruit) or game dishes.